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(sō`när), device used underwater for locating submerged objects and for submarine communication by means of sound waves. The term sonar is an acronym for sound navigation ranging. The main component of sonar equipment is an electroacoustic transducer that is in direct contact with the water. It is suspended from the hull of a ship or on a cable from a low-flying helicopter. The transducer converts electric energy into acoustic energy (thus acting as a projector), much as does a loudspeaker, and converts acoustic energy into electric energy (serving as a hydrophone), as does a microphone. A pulse of electric energy vibrates the diaphragm of the projector, sending sound waves through the water. These waves are concentrated into a sound beam, which scans the water when the projector is rotated. After the sound wave is emitted, the projector is converted into a hydrophone and listens for an echo. The cycle is repeated periodically. A returning echo is converted into an electric current by the transducer and may be interpreted (for range, bearing, and the nature of the target) aurally through a loudspeaker or visually represented on a display screen, as is done with radar signals. The various types of sonar in use can be put into three classes: direct listening, communications, and echo ranging. In direct listening, also known as passive sonar, the object under observation generates the sounds that are received. In communications and echo ranging the sonar must generate its own signals. Sonar operates in the 10- to 50-kilocycle acoustical frequency range. It is used for communication between submerged submarines or between a submarine and a surface vessel, for locating mines and underwater hazards to navigation, and also as a fathometer, or depth finder. Sonar is widely used by commercial fishermen for locating shoals of fish. Research has indicated that sonar used for echo ranging can affect some dolphins and porpoises and especially beaked whales. In some instances it may startle them and cause them to surface too rapidly, producing a disorder similar to decompression sicknessdecompression sickness,
physiological disorder caused by a rapid decrease in atmospheric pressure, resulting in the release of nitrogen bubbles into the body tissues. It is also known as caisson disease, altitude sickness, and the bends.
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 (in which nitrogen bubbles form in body tissues); this may be linked to strandings of those species.


See J. W. Horton, Fundamentals of Sonar (1957); D. G. Tucker, Underwater Observation Using Sonar (1966).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


(pop culture)
Two generations of villains named Sonar have plagued two generations of Green Lanterns. The first, Bito Wladon of the tiny European country of Modora, was introduced in a 1962 story in Green Lantern vol. 2 #14 by John Broome and artist Gil Kane. The apprentice clockmaker wished to make his overlooked nation a world power by supplying it with a “nucleo-sonic bomb.” To this end, Wladon embarked for the United States to obtain the technology he needed to realize his theories. His efforts brought him into conflict with Green Lantern, whom he fought with weapons powered by his sonic researches, leading the media to dub him “Sonar.” The first Sonar used a “tuning fork gun” to project his sonic energies, which he could use to fly, to project destructive force, and to create mental images to confuse his adversaries. Over the years, he became a regular opponent for Green Lantern and also fought the Elongated Man in the 1992 Elongated Man miniseries. The second criminal to call himself Sonar was introduced in Green Lantern vol. 3 #66 (1995) in a story by Ron Marz and Paul Pelletier. He, too, also seems to be a citizen of Modora. His parentage, origin, and true name are unknown, although it has been speculated that he is the son of Bito Wladon. The microcircuits that give him his mastery of sound were originally subcutaneous, although in later appearances much of that circuitry has been exposed, giving him a bizarre appearance. The second Sonar is also able to use local sounds such as noise from traffic as a weapon against his foes. Sonar has attempted to take over the island of Manhattan for his personal kingdom, believing himself to be of royal blood. This attitude gives Sonar an innate sense of entitlement which, combined with his formidable sonic powers, make him a fearsome adversary. He has also fought the team of Green Lantern Kyle Rayner and the third Flash, Wally West, and holds a grudge against them both.
The Supervillain Book: The Evil Side of Comics and Hollywood © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a hydroacoustic system (or instrument) for determining the location of underwater objects with the aid of sound signals. In addition to the distance to the submerged object, some sonar systems also determine the depth of its submergence by the projection of distance and angle of direction to the object in a vertical plane. For the methods of determining the location of an object and the uses of sonar, See SONAR TECHNIQUES.

Sonar operates in the following manner. A pulse of electric voltage produced by a generator is fed through a receive-transmit switch to electroacoustic transducers (oscillators), which produce an acoustic pulse of 10 to 100 msec length into the water at a certain solid angle or in all directions. When emission ends, the oscillators are switched into a heterodyne amplifier to receive and amplify the acoustic pulse signals reflected from objects. Then the signals come into indicator instruments: a recorder, an electrodynamic loudspeaker, telephones, or a cathode-ray tube (CRT). The recorder measures and electrochemically records the distance to the object on tape. With the aid of the telephones and the electrodynamic loudspeaker, the received signals are heard at a frequency of sound and are classified, and the direction is determined from the maximum sound. On the CRT the signal from the object is illuminated and the distance to it and the direction (bearing) are measured. The pause between adjacent emissions of pulses measures several seconds.

Depending on the technique of searching for an object, there are step-by-step sonar, sector searching sonar, and scanning sonar. In the step-by-step searching and direction finding, the acoustic system is rotated, according to the maximum signal, in a horizontal plane over an angle of 2.5°-15°, followed by a pause equal to the time it takes the pulse to travel from the sonar to an object located at the maximum possible distance and from the object to the sonar. Then the next rotation is made. In direction finding by the phase method, the acoustic system is constructed in the form of two separate systems that are changed by a contactless switch-gear from an emitting regime to a receiving regime and back. The signal sums and differences, taken from a two-channel compensator, are fed, after being amplified and phased, to the CRT and recorder, where the distance is read off. This method is characterized by a comparatively high precision of direction finding, the great amount of time (several minutes) it takes for surveying the underwater area, and the ability to track only one object. Under sector searching, acoustic energy is emitted simultaneously in all elements of a certain sector, and the receiving and direction finding of reflected signals are carried out during rapid scanning of the directivity index within this sector. Under the scanning method, which is the most widespread, there is nondirectional (circular) emission and directional (within the limits of a narrowly rotating directivity diagram) reception, which assures the detection and direction finding of all objects surrounding the sonar system. The acoustic system (antenna) is constructed in the form of a cylinder or sphere consisting of a large number of individual oscillators and is located in a vertically movable apparatus or in a stationary radome. The advantages of this method include rapid scanning of the entire horizon and the ability to detect and track several objects.

Most sonar systems operate in the sonic and ultrasonic frequency ranges (4-40 kHz). This is based on the necessity of obtaining a sharp directivity for the antenna (despite its relatively small size) and of achieving the required resolving power. Sonar systems of various designations have a range capability from hundreds of meters to tens of kilometers and provide a direction-finding precision of about I°. To reduce the unfavorable influence of hydrologic factors on range capability, sonar is used with an acoustic system located in a container that is towed by the ship at a depth of several tens of meters (sonar installation with a variable depth of submergence).


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A system that uses underwater sound, at sonic or ultrasonic frequencies, to detect and locate objects in the sea, or for communication; the commonest type is echo-ranging sonar; other versions are passive sonar, scanning sonar, and searchlight sonar. Derived from sound navigation and ranging.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


a communication and position-finding device used in underwater navigation and target detection using echolocation
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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The objectives for this study were 1) to examine the feasibility of developing a trawlability prediction model based on backscatter data from areas of known trawlability and 2) to evaluate the use of applying the model to predict trawlability in unknown areas on the basis of measured backscatter properties of acoustic data collected along track lines of future surveys conducted by the same vessel and with the same echosounder that was used to collect data for this study.
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